‘I’ll Have What He’s Having’: The Goldberg Becomes a Culinary Classic
Charlie Goldberg isn’t your typical culinary legend.
He’s more of a know-what-you-like-and-stick-to-it guy than a restaurant risk taker.
But don’t mistake routine for boring. At Davidson College’s Wildcat Den, the sandwich that bears his name reeks of daring:
One Jalapeno wrap. Four ounces of deli chicken. Three slices of bacon. A slice of pepper jack cheese and a slice of cheddar. A schmear of Chipotle mayonnaise. And just enough spinach to tell his mom that he’s eating his vegetables.
It’s a hefty, half-pound bundle of deliciousness that Goldberg ate nearly every day of his college career. Since August’s designation as National Sandwich Month coincides with the beginning of a new school year, it’s a fitting time to recognize the class of 2019 innovator who created this classic.
“It was always so funny to see my name on the screen when it was a special,” Goldberg said. “Sometimes I’d be behind someone who ordered it, and someone would point out who I was, and they’d say, ‘Oh, you’re the Goldberg—I love the Goldberg.’
“It is such a claim to fame.”
So much so, that Goldberg swears the sandwich helped him win the class presidency during his second year at Davidson: “It came out during the time when formal campaigning wasn’t allowed yet and made my name a talking point.”
Den workers would start his sandwich before he even got in line. When indecisive students saw it, they’d say, ‘I’ll have what he’s having,’” said Valerie Murdock, a former Den staffer who now works in marketing for the college.
“It became very popular with the football team,” Murdock said. “I’m sure they can endorse it. It’s got a lot of meat and bacon.”
Goldberg was such a faithful customer that when he got sick and missed two days, the sandwich makers peppered his friends with questions about his well-being. While his sandwich may be a special, he was certainly a favorite.
“Charlie reminded me of Jimmy Fallon, he was always so nice and so patient, and really funny,” Murdock said. “Even though the Goldberg was a big deal, he was never flashy about it. He was always very humble about this big honor.”
Of course such acclaim could evoke different reactions, and maybe a teeny bit of jealousy.
“Some of my friends think it’s so funny,” Goldberg said. “Others are like, ‘Of course this would happen to you.’
“Everyone who works at the Den always gave me special attention and I really appreciate it, it was so kind of them,” he said. “But it wasn’t just me. If you go there, they remember you. And it was always nice to see the same people every day.”
When the Wildcat Den initially announced The Goldberg as a special on its Facebook page, his mom, Margaret Morris, shared the post on Instagram, adding: “I know bragging about one’s child on social media is verboten, but I’ve never been prouder! #worththetuition.”
His parents came to lunch and ordered the sandwich on the Friday of a Parents’ Weekend, “and I think they were surprised to discover how delicious it was,” Goldberg said.
While some purists may balk at calling a wrap a sandwich, Goldberg insists that it is.
“It should absolutely be counted as a sandwich,” he said. “It has the magnitude of a sandwich. It has all the ingredients of a sandwich—when you think about it, a wrap is just a really wide piece of bread enclosing a sandwich.”
Goldberg, a Chicago area native, now lives and works as a business analyst in Charlotte. He’s searching for something—anything—to replace his namesake.
As much as he’s tried, he’s never found another sandwich shop or restaurant that makes it right. He once even bought all the ingredients and tried, without success, to make it at home.
“I don’t know if it’s the ingredients or the care it’s made with, but there’s no replicating the Goldberg,” he said. “Nothing comes close.”
Fortunately, Charlotte isn’t that far from Davidson, and Goldberg has already planned one work-related recruiting trip to his alma mater, which may very well coincide with lunch time. It’s not a drive he can make every day, but he’s circumspect:
“It might be good that I won’t be eating so much bacon.”